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Tomorrows of togetherness
Who am I in relation to Iran and Islam in the new millennium?

Natalie Esfandiari
March 24, 2005

I've read so many articles in regarding arguments common among Iranians, mostly outside of Iran, on the difficulties of being a person of faith in Islam or identified with it by birth in Iran.

As we have gone through the events of the past 26 years (my gosh, more than a quarter of a century) and watched the world sliding right or left, East or West, rich or poor, and so on and so on, we became more aware of the dilemma of what it means to be Iranian.

Having a different background, we searched ourselves for a sense of identity: who am I in relation to Iran and Islam in the new millennium?

We Iranians are becoming better than all people in the East or West. We have struggled with our identity crisis for almost three decades. We were Muslims and proud of it, we were doubtful and raised questions, we homed ourselves in the West and paid closer attention to its values.

Then we became homesick. We went back to our nostalgic past, Iran and Islam, and watched through a Western eye, and saw charming mirages and romantic notions of humility and sincerity in its corners.

We decorated our homes with a new-found feeling brought by the smell of berries and the song of Ramadan, reminding us of the way our families and old friends still live and pray. We felt their concerns and thought about the way they see the world and we became the eye of a hearty observant.

Dear friends, Iranians: if you are a true believer of any faith I respect your private whispers within you, and I hope you respect mine. I believe in your freedom as long as you hurt no one else's. You and I may decide to use our freedom differently, that is the nature of freedom. What free people may do is their business, and what free thinkers think is also their business.

As thinkers and artists of our time, maybe we should learn how to be inclusive in our ways and find that point in our fabric, that spiritual center -- not a mosque, church or temple -- that can include all of us.

We are now living in every part of the world and the world always demands our best. Our challenge as Iranians is to find the tomorrows of togetherness spiritually and physically. We should realize how close we are inside. We argue, but deep inside we know in our hearts we are so similar.

The Sohrabs of our time won't let their fathers kill them unjustifiably; they will not allow their rights and hopes for better lives be taken away any more. Who can stop progress in the human soul? Once a greater vision is recognized, it would be very difficult for any regime to stop it.

It is for us to recognize that greater vision that connects us and empowers us as a tribe with a shared history, and that is how we shall welcome others, in an exchange of which culture found the greater wisdom or silkiest love.

Our greater achievements may not be recorded, but I believe that being an Iranian is something to be proud of. We share a home with the greatest teacher of human spirituality, Hafez, and the wisest, Ferdosi, as well as Sa'di, Razi and Ibn-e Sina. There is hidden glory within us, in our Sarzamin-e Zartosht, Sarzamin-e Paak Fekree. All we need is a renaissance to pass this depressing chapter.

These are not every day words, but sooner we realize our empowerment as a unified group, the better for all.

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